Black Bear Pass

Total Miles


3914.13 ft


2 Hours

Technical Rating



Best Time

Summer, Fall

Trail Overview

Historic mines and breathtaking waterfalls, including Bridal Veil Falls are just a few of the sights along this mountain trail. You can turn around before you reach the one-way, downhill switchbacks. If you're in an unlicensed vehicle, you should take that option or plan to be picked up at the bottom of the trail. The road is closed from October through May 15. Black Bear Pass is one of the best-known Jeep trails in the State. It has a reputation for killing people. It is possible to die on this trail, but that is true for most of the trails in the Rocky Mountains. You have to be careful and use common sense wherever you are. This is an easy 6-rated trail, but if I gave "Pucker Factor" ratings this one would be off the chart your first time down. The scenery is great. There are two significant waterfalls, nice views of the San Juans, and an overview of Telluride. The trail is two-way as it begins on US 550, but switches to one-way at the point it gets narrow and scary. There are very few spots wide enough to pass from here on down. The road from US 550 to the actual Black Bear Pass is another beautiful Rocky Mountain road. There is a spur road at the timberline that leads to Porphyry Gulch, then the trail goes up, up, and up toward the pass. As you top the pass the road drops down into the upper basin. You then drop from there into a still lower basin. Then drop into yet a third basin. After the edge of the third basin, the road drops steeply toward Telluride. At the bottom of this drop, you reach a sign indicating that the trail is one-way from here down. You will soon reach the worst "Pucker Point" of the trail. This section is called "The Steps". The road is a solid ledge, but it is a bit off-camber, somewhat narrow and there is a big drop on the driver's side. This is the scariest part. Be careful. Think about what you are doing and you will be OK. Remember, tour companies take tourists down this. OR, you can do what I did - let your wife drive so you can take photos.


Very rocky, rutted and off-camber trail with erosion, loose rocks, sand, washes and obstacles up to 3 feet tall, including ledges and short, steep grades. Potential for deep water crossings with strong currents.

Technical Rating


Access Description

Head south from Ouray on U.S. 550 about 13 miles. Turn right on well-marked Black Bear Road just after the summit of Red Mountain Pass, near mile marker 80.